Monday, 30 November 2015

OLP Leader Kathleen Wynne speaks to the Ontario Liberal Party Provincial...

The Premier talks about hope — the hope Ontario offers by being inclusive, by being positive and by building opportunity and security in the lives of those she serves.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Landmark appointment by Prime Minister Trudeau

It is understandably not attracting a great deal of attention in mainstream media, but Prime Minister Trudeau’s appointment of a Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities is garnering plenty of attention from those within the disabled community and their loved ones. And he could not have selected a better Member of Parliament than the newly elected Honorable Member from Delta (British Columbia) Carla Qualtrough; who happens to be visually impaired since birth.

Best known for her record as a three-time Paralympic Games (competing in Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992) medalist in swimming, Ms. Qualtrough is a lawyer with a strong background in human rights, inclusion, and sport. Her focus has been on addressing inequity and advancing social policy objectives, particularly as they relate to traditionally marginalized and disadvantaged groups.

As a parent to a child on the autism spectrum, I am excited by the potential impact of her presence at the Cabinet table. While I have only found myself part of this community for two years I have come to realize the failure of all governments to address persons with disabilities in a truly impactful way. But Minister Qualtrough can do this. Prior to her election to Canada’s Parliament she was a representative to the British Columbia Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal. She also worked as a mediator and arbitrator, and has taught mediation and negotiation courses around the world - skills that will prove an asset in her new role.

Working with Premier Christy Clark's BC government, Minister Qualtrough chaired the Minister’s Council on Employment and Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities.  She advised the Minister of Social Development on issues related to persons with a disability, and helped lead a province-wide consultation initiative developing a white paper on disability.

She was Director of Inclusion and Director of Sport Initiatives for the 2010 Legacies Now Society, developing a strategy to make the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games a true celebration of diversity and inclusion. She acted as Senior Advisor to the Parliamentary Secretary (Sport) to the Prime Minister, as Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State (Physical Activity and Sport), and as Special Advisor to the Director General of Sport Canada.

Suffice to say; Minister Qualtrough has a tremendous resume that has prepared her for the role she has undertaken.

With her promise of a "Canadians with Disabilities Act" I look forward to her positive impact on government policy.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

By-election in Scarborough - Rouge River

The Toronto District School Board will hold a by-election to replace fill the seat vacated by former Chair Shaun Chen when he was elected to Parliament as a Liberal.

A by-election of this nature comes with an estimated cost of  $250,000.

The majority of Trustees did vote in favour of a by-election. However, it another former Chair Sheila Ward who opposed the expense, stating, it is "a quarter of a million dollars" on a ballot that typically draws about 11% of potential electors. And I have to agree. While some might argue this as the cost of democracy school board vacancies just to not draw the kind of attention necessary for the Torontonians to get their monies worth.

Parents - especially those with children who have special needs - have already been forced to foot the bill for various unions' extravagance throughout a log drawn out negotiation process. It is time the TDSB stopped tossing money around and started investing it in those that truly need it - our kids.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

A little left out of Trudeaumania

Whenever people ask me how I feel about this election I tell them "comfortable" or "good"; not great but "good". That is because I didn’t fall under the spell of this Trudeau. He was just another talented politician to me. As a man of 30 (well in five days anyway) I don't reminisce for the days of Pierre Trudeau. I joined a party that was led by Jean Chretien. For me he was our greatest Prime Minister. As a student of history it was the records of Sir Wilfred Laurier, Lester B. Pearson, and Pierre Trudeau’s chief rival Progressive Conservative Joe Clark that captivated me. Pierre Trudeau was just another Prime Minister. So when Justin entered the political fray in 2008 I admit that I thought he made an impressive candidate, but that was all. And when he chose to run for leadership of the party I had joined eleven years prior I was skeptical. But he had captivated the party. Even those at the party's central office (where I was employed at the time) were already referring to him as a future Prime Minister. However, I just couldn't get on board. I knew he was going to win but there just seemed to be better candidates than this man who had yet to truly be tested. I was big fan of Marc Garneau  (who should be Canada's next Minister of National Defense in my opinion), but I ultimately supported George Takach until he dropped out, spending the remainder of the race on Martha Hall Findlay's team. I marked my ranked ballot with her at the top. Justin Trudeau was second. This was familiar territory for me. I'd supported John Manley than Sheila Copps against Paul Martin..

So here we stood again. More than a decade later we had a Liberal messiah and they were not the individual I had preferred. But that was not the only issue. I watched as Justin Tudeau took the party in a direction that perhaps centralized it's command stucture more than ever before. This was not the type of renewal I had hoped for. What is more I was beginning to wonder if Justin even deserved my vote. But all around me colleagues and friends were really very passionate about this man who descended from Prime Minister to become Prime Minister. Trudeaumania is real but I have never been part of it. Instead it was policy that convinced me to leave my vote with the Liberal Party. It was still the view that the extreme centre is where this country belongs. It was that the Liberal Party was the only party to  even mention education in their platform. It was the utter failure of the Stephen Harper government. And it was Justin Trudeau's demonstration of dedication and humanity to his role. Many have criticized the younger Trudeau as growing up in a bubble; being a silver spoon baby, but there is something about him that truly seems to make him different that the majority of politicians. As a retail politician he is able to connect with Canadians in a way our country may have never seen before.Despite his wealthy upbringing Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair could just not connect to Canadians in the same way. People see a certain humanity in Trudeau. They see themselves. And that is what will make him a worthy Prime Minister.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Conservative government’s partnership with Autism Speaks Canada

Tomorrow is Election Day in Canada. We are one day away from deciding the future of our country. The truth is, on a personal level I do not believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been all that terrible. Further, I do not believe the other two leaders have demonstrated that they would be tremendously different. Yes. There would, of course, be tweaks to national policy here and there. Thomas Mulcair’s New Democratic Party most notably opposes free trade. This would put an end to the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has promised to end Canada’s traditional attempts to balance a budget. Admittedly, while I am not a huge fan of this promise, I am a huge fan of his honesty. I find it incredibly disingenuous of the Prime Minister to pretend as though he is the steady hand at the till when his record includes over $150 billion in debt. That is a $150 billion tax increase our next generation. That is more than any other Prime Minister in Canadian history. And this all occurred after promising never to run a deficit. That is his record. So when Justin Trudeau promises to cap the deficit at $10 billion annually and only for the first three years, I appreciate his honestly.

However, this is all secondary to me personally. Is it important?

Absolutely. But as a parent to a child with special needs, particularly a child on the autism spectrum, I cannot help but recognize the government’s attempt at a plan to address both those Canadians’ on the autism spectrum and their loved ones and/or caregivers.

The plan states;

“A re-elected Conservative Government will continue to support our three-year partnership with the Canadian Association of Community Living to help connect people with developmental disabilities with jobs.

We’ll also continue our four-year partnership with the Sinneave Family Foundation and Autism Speaks Canada to expand vocational training for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

And we’ll continue to support the Autism Spectrum Disorder Working Group’s work to develop a Canadian Autism Partnership. We’ll be ready to support the initiative in areas of federal jurisdiction once the development work is complete.”

Initially, the attempt by the Government, as led by Member of Parliament Mike Lake, should be commended. They are trying. But here is the problem; they are going about it the wrong way. This ‘plan’ (if you can really call it that) engages only two members of a wide ranging autism community; both of whom have of a total of zero representatives on the spectrum sitting on their governing bodies. However, of greater concern is the formal partnership with Autism Speaks Canada. Autism Speaks represents a massive divide within the autism community. Having a son on the spectrum, undoubtedly Mike Lake is aware of this.

In 2007, Autism Speaks merged with Cure Autism Now. Founded is 1995, this organization raised more than $39 million for research directed at curing autism. Here is the problem; notions of a cure are both divisive and dangerous. Autism Speaks has chosen to view autism as a disease rather than a disorder. This has led to an expansion of ablest attitudes and misdirected parents’ use of methods that cross lines that would not be approved by the greater scientific community. This issue came to a head for the autism community with the 2009 film ‘I am Autism’ that personified ‘the disease of autism’ as a kind of grim reaper figure.

I do not want to come off as attacking Mr. Lake. I am certain his heart is in the right place. I am certain the Prime Minister’s is, as well. But my daughter is not ill. Neither are any of the other unique individuals on the spectrum I have had the joy of meeting as a parent in the autism community or a representative to the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee. Children on the spectrum are not sick. Unfortunately, by partnering with Autism Speaks, the federal government has chosen to endorse the notion that they are.

Friends, Prime Minister Harper has been supportive of Israel and his party has made tremendous strides in the acceptance of the LGBT community; both issues of tremendous importance to me. But when you cannot accept my daughter I cannot accept you. Should the Prime Minister loose tomorrow I believe he will be forced to step down as the leader of his party. Hopefully the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada will be more accepting of Canadians with special needs. Until then, I just cannot give this party my vote.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Why I am voting for Justin Trudeau

It should be noted that this decision was not an easy one for me. Justin Trudeau never appealed to me. When he was running for leadership I was active in the campaigns of George Takach and Martha Hall Findlay. I still believe Hall Findlay would make a far better Prime Minister. However, the time for such discussions has passed. Justin Trudeau is the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and the best option to lead this country.

Prior to this election, for perhaps the first time since my initial election as a voter I carefully considered the various candidates. I did sincerely weight M. Mulcair and Prime Minister Harper. But frankly, they failed mightily to convince me that either deserved my vote. There are a few key reasons for this.

The first is that the Liberal platform is the only one of the three major parties that addresses education. While the initiatives are minor and much of the available funding targeted to Aboriginal populations, at least education is on the mind of the Liberal leader. The other two platforms felt it garnered nary a mention.

The Syrian refugee crisis also represented a turning point for me. As a Jewish person I cannot help but relate these refugees to my own family that was forced back to Poland despite sitting on Canada's door step on the east coast. As Canadian Jews we have a responsibility to that legacy. That responsibility compels me to allow refugees access to Canada. However, the Prime Minister has taken the position that Canada can only afford a slow and steady approach to allowing a minimal number of refugees is the only way to ensure Canada's security. I believe that to be a wholly irresponsible way to behave if Canada is actually going to play a part in saving the lives of refugees being displaced as part of a war to which Canadian Forces are directly involved.

Also of concern has to be the decision by the federal government to sell arms to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Such an act by a government that purports to be on the side of Israel and has gained a reputation for a morality based approach to foreign affairs leaves me in a position that makes it difficult to trust really much of anything that the Prime Minister says.

But for me a make or break issue has to be the federal government's plan to create an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) action plan of sorts. I make zero secret of my daughter's ASD diagnosis. So when this government chose to draft a plan led by MP Mike Lake, who son is on the spectrum and I have no doubt has his heart in the right place, promised to "continue our four-year partnership with the Sinneave Family Foundation and Autism Speaks Canada". This haphazardly planned initiative only engages two stakeholders from the autism spectrum community; one of whom has a terrible record of promoting dangerous cure culture 'treatment' for autism as though it was more a disease than a disorder. Sorry Mr. Harper. Sorry Mr. Lake. That won't fly with me. I respect that you tried. That you are trying. But I cannot in good conscience give you me vote.

The reality is this:

None of the three men in the running for Canada's highest elected office makes me excited to vote. They are all incredibly flawed. Fortunately they have some fine candidates running that might be able to assist the next government. And it is my belief that Justin Trudeau has demonstrated that he is most likely to listen.

Monday, 28 September 2015

On the new health and physical education curriculum, including sex education

Let me be clear: I support the updated 'sex ed' curriculum. I believe after seventeen years it is impossible to deny that the world is a different place. As the father of a young girl - particularly a young girl on the autism spectrum who cannot fully comprehend when something may or may not be appropriate - I want her to be have the tools to make her own decisions without any worry of coercion or peer pressure.

I understand that much of those engaging in protests against the new curriculum are doing so either because they believe the curriculum to be an infringement of their religious freedom or in some failed attempt to protect their child's youth and innocence. And I have respect for that perspective. I firmly believe that parents must have the final say on whether or not their children are included in this lesson plan. School boards are doing no one favours by forcing aspects of the curriculum on to students; regardless if how baseless or illogical their opposition might be.

Here, however,  is the problem; while I do believe that parents should be able to remove their children for even the most frivolous of reasons there is not a single viable reason to force that perspective on additional families.

That is where the problem with large scale protests lie. The ongoing actions against the new curriculum are seemingly motivated by varying degrees of fearful ignorance and angry prejudice in an attempt to convince other parents that only this socially conservative view can be the right one.

But there is just one problem with that; they are wrong.

Many protesting parents seem to be  complaining that the curriculum teaches Grade 1 students, for instance, that the female external genital area is called a "vulva." It is hardly corrupt or vile to instruct on basic anatomy. 

Dispelling ignorance — teaching children basic facts and correct names for things — is a central mission of public schools.

Every other argument shows protesters objecting that their children are being taught to respect other people.

The whole debate about teaching “consent” centres on lessons that teach that each person is in charge of his or her own body and should not be made to tolerate other people abusing it. Objectors fear that children who learn the concept of consent are being taught that they can consent to sex while they remain small children. But this a fear not drawn on from any of the written curriculum. Moreover, as the parent to a six year old girl, it entirely misses that the purpose of the consent lesson.

Moreover there also is a great deal of opposition to teaching children in the third grade that homosexuality exists and that some children in the classroom may vary well have two mothers or two fathers. Opposition to this is absurd.  You don't have to like the world as it is, but you do have to accept it.  The fact is there will be children from families of varying make. Accept it.

As I'd previously stated,  I support parent(s)'s freedom on this matter. However, if there are any parents reading this I encourage you to allow your children to take the full curriculum. They will be better people for it.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

I don't usually comment on the actions of Toronto's Catholic District School Board, but...

I don't usually comment on the actions of Toronto's Catholic District School Board, but the recent decision by the TCDSB to expropriate seventeen town homes in the Cummer and Bayview area has got me interested.

Swimming in debt, this is expected to cost the Board at least $31 million. The act is being attacked by politicians at various levels of government. In the middle of an election that shouldn't surprise anyone. What should surprise, however, is just how legal this act is. Provincial legislation enables school boards  (the TDSB and both French boards have this power too) to acquire land without consent so long as it in the public interest and owners are compensated.

But the TCDSB is playing defense. They believe the circumstances leave them little choice. They believe the 17 homes are needed to make room for the St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Secondary School. The all-girls school is currently on leased property slightly north of the contentious site, which was purchased from the Toronto District School Board. That lease expires in 2018.

This is just another case of a debt ridden school board digging itself into a financial hole and expecting taxpayers to bail them out. Both the TDSB and TCDSB are coming upon some big big decisions.  With teachers' unions negotiating a raise out of the provincial government cuts will have to be made to finance the pay increase. It is not the time to start balancing a budget on the backs of parents and children.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Trudeau-led government to invest in our children and educators

I wonder if the teachers' unions are still all gung ho to throw their support behind M. Mulcair. The NDP has made the interesting choice to run to the right of the Liberal Party  (and even to the right of the Conservative Party at times) during Canada's 42nd election. While this has put them at odds with much of their traditional base it does appear that Mulcair is sticking to his guns. More surprising, however, is M. Trudeau’s decision to embrace his new role as the leader of Canada's left. Never was this more demonstrated than when he announced a targeted tax credit for teaching professionals who purchase school supplies out of pocket.

In the heavily contested 905-area city of Newmarket, Ontario Trudeau said, “As teachers and early childhood educators prepare their classrooms for the upcoming school year, we are reminded that our children need positive and enriching environments in order to learn and grow. ... Yet our tax system doesn’t recognize the many out-of-pocket expenses that teachers and early childhood educators incur in order to set up their classrooms.”

He's not wrong.  This is a good policy. Most interesting, however, is the NDP criticism of it. Give M. Mulcair  credit where credit is due. Much like Prime Minister Harper is running as far left as he possibly can without any worry with regard to losing his right wing base, Mulcair is running as far right as humanly possible understanding  (and rightly so) that he need not worry about a left wing base so close to power it can already taste it. The problem is, should Mulcair become Canada's next Prime Minister New Democrats that remember the days of Douglas and Broadbent and even Layton may not like what they see - an NDP government that would rather balance the books than help teachers.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Tragedy in Israel after shooting at Pride

As members of the international community we can only extend our hearts to the six victims who were wounded at the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance.

It is an unspeakable tragedy that on a day that intended to be of positivity and acceptance that the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer/questioning) Jewish community is once again mourning an act of senseless violence against LGBTQ people.

We were than informed the tragic news. Sixteen-year-old Shira Banki has died. 
As a member of the international LGBTQ Jewish community, my thoughts and prayers are with Shira's family and friends at this devastating time. 

In a statement issued today, her family said: "Our magical Shira was murdered because she was a happy 16-year-old – full of life and love – who came to express her support for her friends' rights to live as they choose. For no good reason and because of evil, stupidity and negligence, the life of our beautiful flower was cut short. Bad things happen to good people, and a very bad thing happened to our amazing girl. The family expresses hope for a less hatred and more tolerance."

There are no words to express what the Banki Family is going through. 

The World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Jews issued a statement, announcing, "Ignorance and fear will not discourage our uncompromising demand to live our lives as we are. Knives will not stop us. With pride and pain, with broken hearts and tearful eyes, with Shira's memory and our unanswered prayers, we will continue to march in Jerusalem."
Shira's tragic death is a cogent reminder of how much work still needs to be done in our communities to educate people about the acceptance of diversity, and the importance of inclusion and respect for difference. 

I will close on this note; there is a tradition in Judaism of Refuah Shlema. It is a prayer of healing. And it goes as follows:

Mi-sheberakh avoteinu v'imoteinu, Avraham v'Sarah, Yitzhak v'Rivkah, Ya'akov, Rachel v'Leah hu y'varekh et (recite the Hebrew name) v'yavi aleihem refuat hanefesh u'refuat haguf yachad im kol cholei amo Yisrael. Barukh atah Adonai, rofeh ha'cholim.

In English: May the One who was a source of blessing for our ancestors, bring blessings of healing upon (recite the name), a healing of body and a healing of spirit. May those in whose care they are entrusted, be gifted with wisdom and skill, and those who surround them, be gifted with love and trust, openness and support in their care. And may they be healed along with all those who are in need. Blessed are You, Source of healing. Amen

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

LGBTorys are coming out!

Following a successful first appearance at this year’s annual Toronto lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans(gender/sexual), queer/questioning (LGBTQ) Pride Parade the upstart LGBTory (also known as Rainbow Conservatives of Canada) will host their first pub night tomorrow (22 June 2015) and I will be there to catch every minute.

I have been involved in politics a long time now. I have particularly been involved in LGBTQ politics for even longer. I was part of the founding membership of one of this country’s first gay-straight alliance on the eve of what would be one of the most important debates in Canadian history. I remember where the six parties stood at the time. Just a day over ten years ago, the New Democratic Party and the Green Party were unequivocal in their support. This was criticized by some moderates who preferred the Liberal Party approach to a partial whip that would guarantee victory or the free votes of the Bloc Quebecois. The Conservative Party of Canada…?

History has demonstrated future Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s position as a defender of ‘traditional marriage’. But four Conservatives stood for equality in marriage. Belinda Stronach (who would later join the Liberal front bench), James Moore, Gerald Keddy, and Jim Prentice would cast their votes with Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government. These for MPs (and John Baird) laid the groundwork for a Conservative movement in Canada that believes in personal freedom of sexuality. LGBTory is their legacy. And whether it was his intention or not, Scott Brison’s initial run for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada let Canadians know that there is such a thing as a gay Conservative.

Make no mistake; this landmark group is well aware that the vast majority of the LGBTQ community identifies with another political party. They know they have their work cut out for them. But they are up to the task. The other parties; notably the Liberal Party and the NDP, should welcome them to the fray. No longer can these parties claim to be the only parties that have the LGBTQ community’s best interest at heart. And that is a good thing. The LGBTQ has never been of one mind when it comes to politics, nor should it be. Our community is as diverse as any other in Canada.

Full disclosure: I joined the Liberal Party of Canada in 2003 in large part because they were a party fighting for equality in marriage. I did not if I would marry a man or a woman but I wanted to be able to marry either should I choose to. The precursors to the modern Conservative Party of Canada were not willing to fight for this right. However, the Conservative Party than maintain status as Canada’s governing party has demonstrated a willingness to defend equal rights for the LGBTQ community both here and abroad. Opposition parties should never view such notions as a bad thing.

Much like their Log Cabin cousins to the south, ‘Rainbow Conservatives,’ are coming out in Canadian politics. And in October they will be given a chance to prove just how loud that voice can be when they put well known LGBTQ activist Julian DiBattista on the ballot in Toronto Centre, which houses the largest ‘gay village’ in the country.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Teachers' unions just don't understand.

For many parents and students the news that four school boards will not be releasing report cards; including the two largest boards in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Peel District School Board (PDSB), this is a  final straw. Please do not misunderstand. No one doubts the difficulty of teaching, but teachers' unions have been directing their members in an extreme direction since the 1990s. This incident with report cards will only succeed in angering parents and students.

As reported in today's Toronto Sun, "the salary range for teachers runs from $42,283 for a rookie, to $94,707 after 10 years for a teacher who does the required upgrading. Those who chose not to move up the grid make a top salary of $76,021. They also get hefty benefits and a lucrative pension that’s funded 50% by taxpayers. For that kind of dough, they should fill out report cards."

While the province struggles with a $10 billion deficit and debt nearing $300 billion teachers' unions demand more. Frankly, the Wynne government is the most teacher friendly government in Ontario history. Even the NDP government of Bob Rae was not as willing to bend to the will of the Sam Hammonds in Ontario to the degree that Premier Wynne has. The least teachers can do is let us see our children's grades.

As a parent to a special needs child I depend on those grades to gain insight into my daughter's educational development. I cannot do this as long as her grade are kept under lock and key.

So the question becomes, 'what can parents do about it?'

Simply put: nothing.

We are dependent on our trustees and MPPs to do what is right here. Unfortunately, to date, they are wrestling with a group of unions unwilling negotiate in good faith.

Friday, 5 June 2015

I’d like to talk to you all about the future of the Toronto District School Board...

I’d like to talk to you all about the future of the Toronto District School Board.

As many of you may know, I’m the proud father of a beautiful little girl on the autism spectrum. And, as much as it shocks me to say so, she will soon be turning seven.

My daughter is currently enrolled in the first grade under the TDSB's autism intensive support program (ISP). She is already excited for the second grade.

As parents to a child with special needs, my wife and I are asking ourselves some important questions.
Where should our daughter be going to school?

Where should our family put down their roots?

These are questions shared by families across Toronto. Like them, we want what’s best for our daughters.

To me, there’s no tougher question than asking why they should stay in Toronto.

When I ask myself whether my daughters should stay in Toronto, I find myself asking a much more troubling question: can they stay? Is it in their best interest?

I find myself asking, does our school board afford them the opportunities they need and deserve? Does our city’s public education system afford all Torontonians the opportunities they need and deserve?

If the TDSB continues along its current path, I’m very sad to say the answer isn’t as certain as I’d like.

With the coming federal election trustees should be calling on TDSB Chair Shaun Chen to step down in his role as chair and perhaps even trustee. Mr. Chen has already been confirmed as the federal Liberal candidate in Scarborough's North. This makes him an open target. This makes the TDSB an even easier target. More problematic, however, is that Mr. Chen has been dividing his time as Chair and candidate for months now. It is time for him to step aside, and his fellow trustees need to push him to do this.

With that in mind there are a handful of trustees that could replace him. Deputy Chair Sheila Cary-Meagher is the obvious choice. But with Cary-Meagher you carry the weight of a former ally of disgraced former Chair Chris Bolton. New blood is necessary. So who does this leave? Logically eliminating the 11 newest trustees, Chen, and Cary-Meagher we are left with 9 options. They are as follows;

Chris Glover, Ward 2
Pamela Gough, Ward 3
Howard Kaplan, Ward 5
Chris Tonks, Ward 6
Shelly Laskin, Ward 11
Gerri Gershon, Ward 13
Sheila Ward, Ward 14
David Smith, Ward 19
Jerry Chadwick, Ward 22

A handful are easily removed from this list. While I have developed a reasonable working relationship with Trustee Kaplan, it would be hypocritical of me to endorse a man whom I didn't see fit to serve as trustee only months ago. Trustee Tonks? He had an opportunity during the last Chair elections. He passed. Trustee Ward? As a former Chair, her time is passed. Trustee Smith? His attachment to recent scandal eliminates him.

This makes our new updates list as;

Chris Glover
Pamela Gough
Shelly Laskin
Gerri Gershon
Jerry Chadwick

The reality is none of these individuals has built the kind of resume that gives me confidence to believe they can take on the job at hand. But given that new elections should be coming I would have to say that Pamela Gough seems to have put together the best potential resume. Chair Gough? Perhaps not the most ideal, however, she is certainly the best option available at this point in time.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Michael Sam already has a legacy

Michael Sam has become an inspiration to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community everywhere. Drafted by his hometown St. Louis Rams, Michael Sam installs himself as a beacon to his various communities.

Originally projected to go as high as late in the first round, Sam saw his stock fall to the 249th pick overall. Should this be considered a disappointment? Absolutely. However, what is relevant is that Sam was drafted at all. Ultimately Sam never made the Rams roster. Following a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys he found himself outside the NFL.  But where the NFL failed, the Canadian Football League (CFL) has stepped up. The Montreal Alouettes' signing of Michael Sam instantly makes him the most famous athlete in today's CFL. Is this on par with baseball's Jackie Robinson or Hank Greenberg? Perhaps.

Sam has an opportunity to bring down walls that other openly gay athletes in traditionally 'macho' sports have not been able to do. Jason Collins has come out in the twilight of his basketball career. Professional wrestlers Orando Jordan and Fredrick Rosser (known by his ring name Darren Young) have yet to prove that they are anything more than mid-card draws. Despite being considered relatively small in stature and a step slower than the average DE-OLB swing man, Sam was able to put together a top tier career at the college level. He can still prove himself an all-star caliber athlete on par with Robinson and Greenberg.

I grew up in Toronto. My grandfather was an Argonauts' season ticket holder. He made a huge Argo fan out of me. His influence led me to follow the careers of men like Nate Burleson, Igor Olshansky, Doug Flutie, and of course, Michael "Pinball" Clemons. But as a member of the LGBT community, there was no one like Michael Sam in my youth. Michael Sam offers young men an opportunity to see themselves succeed at a professional level.

His college career proved him a man with a great degree of talent. He should be able to earn himself a shot on the Alouettes' defence. That could very well give him an opportunity to succeed. And if his college career was any indication he should be contention for the CFL's most outstanding defender.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Barriers to quality and accessible education

A 2001-02 study by the Ontario Human Rights (OHR) Commission found 100,735 students at the secondary level received special education programs and/or services in the publicly funded school system. It stands to reason that many of these students have gone or will go on to a post-secondary institution. Barriers to education can take a variety of forms. They can be physical, technological, systemic, financial, or attitudinal. They can arise from an education provider’s failure to make available a needed accommodation, or to provide one in a timely manner. In Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General), the Supreme Court of Canada found that “once the state does provide a benefit, it is obliged to do so in a non-discriminatory manner.... The principle that discrimination can accrue from a failure to take positive steps to ensure that disadvantaged groups benefit equally from services offered to the general public is widely accepted in the human rights field.”

In order for persons with disabilities to receive equal treatment in education, they must have equal access to educational opportunities. The duty to accommodate includes identifying and removing barriers that impede the ability of persons with disabilities to access educational services. The OHR Commission’s Disability Policy affirms the duty of education providers to structure their programs and policies so as to be inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities, and to take an active role in the accommodation process. Throughout the consultation, the Commission heard that students with disabilities continue to experience physical barriers to educational services. As stated by the KIDS’ Coalition: “Students may be unable to attend their local school due to lack of physical accessibility. Many schools are multi-level and the installation of elevators may be impractical or too costly. Parts of the school may be inaccessible due to lack of ramps, heavy doors, site elevation or playground features. Many schools do not have washrooms suitable for students with disabilities.”

It was the OHR Commission’s policy position, as outlined in the Disability Policy, that “when constructing new buildings, undertaking renovations, purchasing new computer systems, launching new Web sites, (or) setting up new policies and procedures... design choices should be made that do not create barriers for persons with disabilities.”

Where barriers already exist, the duty to accommodate requires education providers to make changes up to the point of undue hardship to provide equal access for persons with disabilities. If, after making the required changes, persons with disabilities are still unable to participate fully, education providers have a duty to accommodate any remaining needs up to the point of undue hardship.

Potential solutions could be had in the way of: (1) That the Ontario Building Code be amended to reflect the legal requirements set out in the Human Rights Code; and (2) that, irrespective of when the Building Code is amended, post secondary institutions comply with the requirements of the Human Rights Code and the principles outlined in the Disability Policy when constructing buildings, making renovations, and designing programs and services.